Thursday, July 31, 2003
Turning back the Clock - 31st July 2003, 22.56

The Foreign Affairs Committee has published its report on the 'war on terrorism' and provides 48 dubious recommendations that will prove unlikely to further Britain's interests. Their analysis of the events leading up to war supports those who argued that Iraq was not given enough time to disarm.

4. We conclude that, according to the timetable for UN weapons inspections agreed by the United Kingdom and other Security Council members in 1999, it would have taken inspectors longer to build up capacity and make clear judgements about Iraqi prohibited weapons and weapons programmes than they were permitted before the war in Iraq commenced. (Paragraph 55)

5. We conclude that it would have been highly desirable to obtain a further Security Council resolution before taking military action in Iraq. (Paragraph 75)

This provides the Committee with its desire to promote the role of the United Nations at the expense of the Coalition and express its desire to return to the status quo ante. Its recommendations involve shoring up the Security Council and restoring its influence, mending fences with France and ensuring that NATO, the EU, the US and the Common Foreign and Security Policy all function without reference to the divisions that severely damaged them during the year.

The strategic incoherence that guides the foreign policy of Blair's administration also afflicts the parliamentary critics within the Labour backbenches and the opposition. By preserving the internationalist aims of the pre-war alliances, and cloaking them in the demands of the 'war on terrorism', they provide little opposition to the government. Instead of meeting the challenges that the weakening of the Cold War institutions brings, they talk up the past and repeat the inane mantra of aiding two groups: Europe and teh United States. Not so different from an executive that disagrees with them.

Following Saddam's example

Another way in which the American occupation forces will be imitating Saddam is that it looks as if they are going to be throwing out Al Jazeera journalists from Iraq for the Orwellian crime of "inciting violence". Looks like not faithfully reporting the regime's spin to me.

Now before I get misunderstood as someone who gives a fig for the civic well being of the Iraqis let me make clear that I don't actually have a problem with our allies controlling the media of a restive colony. However I doubt that it will have much effect, the BBC is still reporting from Zimbabwe and the fact that they are banned gives their reports greater credibility. There's no reason to think that Arabs will look at Al Jazeera and Iraq any differently.

There's also the image thing. When we pretend that the invasion of Iraq was about freedom for Iraqis we're going to be judged by stupidly high standards. Of course we're going to be trampling on their abstract freedoms, we've got bloody young men with guns telling them what to do. So let's stop pretending that this is a fight about the freedom for benighted Kurds and Marsh Arabs.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

How unreasonable is Red Korea?

Close your eyes and try to forget that the North Koreans are one of the world's nastiest governments. Think about them as a regime dealing with other states on the international stage.

As an international player is what they want utterly unreasonable? Charley Reese tries to look at North Korea from this realist perspective and comes to the conclusion that North Korea is acting like a normal player and not some nutball regime. I'm not sure I entirely agree, but they are certainly playing a good game with a bad hand. (For the case that they really are nutters read the War Nerd).

There's one thing that Charley Reese did miss out, and that it is perfectly rational for any regime that wishes to preserve it's independence to own nuclear weapons. Think Kosovo v Chechnya; or East Timor v Tibet; or Islamist Pakistan v Secular Iraq; or ...

Fact is we're going to have to grow to love the bomb as a lot more countries will be getting it, and even the expedient of scaling back Western forces is only going to slow down the atomic spread.

Why Hutton? - 30th July 2003, 22.50

The name of Lord Hutton, Law Lord and crossbencher, was rapidly canvassed to head the committee of inquiry examining Kelly's death. The judge was a distinguished figure, scion of the Anglo-Irish establishment that educated its sons in public schools and Oxbridge, grooming them for the highest positions of state within Stormont whilst assuring that their identities were wedded to the wider Empire. Hutton was no exception: educated at Shrewsbury and a Balliol man, before further studies at Queen's College, Belfast and entry to the Northern Ireland Bar.

Such an eminent background, including an excellent first in jurisprudence does not explain "why Hutton?" as opposed to any other spare member of the 'great and the good' who could be conscripted into public service for the duration. This Law Lord was Chief Justice for Northern Ireland from 1988 and had a notable career as a judge, defending state interests in the conflict. Brian Hutton QC represented the soldiers in the Widgery inquiry into "Bloody Sunday". He represented the British government against claims of mistreatment in the European Court of Human Rights in 1978. His last 'vocal' intervention was the request for Lord Hoffman to declare his 'interest' in Amnesty International during the Pinochet case.

For those who would claim that the security services hold some undefined interest in this affair, it is clear that Hutton is one of the few judges considered trustworthy enough to be encumbered with their secrets. Hutton's appointment indicates that the Blair administration had to turn to one of the more conservative figures on the bench to head the inquiry, a lord with past links to the security services and an adept knowledge of the pressures that law and intelligence exert on each other. However, Hutton is probably a compromise candidate, considered suitable by the secret services and by the Blairite politicians. The question of whether the 'public interest', for a transparent inquiry that will reveal the events leading up to Kelly's death, will be represented remains unproven. Will one of the inquiry's main objectives, unspoken but clear, be the avoidance of embarrassing revelations for all parties involved in Kelly's death?

I suspect that we shall see more smears.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Robertson goes bonkers

What is George Robertson, departing head of NATO, playing at?

If you are outside the UK you may not be aware that he is threatening to sue the Sunday Herald in Scotland for a message that appeared on an ill frequented notice board.

The idea was that the suggestion that he had supported a firearms certificate for mass murderer Thomas Hamilton would harm future job prospects. I'd say. However letting the world know about this allegation is not the best way to fight it. If you are curious to see what the allegations are you can go to Greg Lance-Watkins' site or David Ickes' site. I hope that I do not need to tell you that I either approve or agree with what either of these two gentlemen say. So why is Robertson publicising a theory that was largely limited to a number of kooks?

Well was it? The Sunday Herald for one was incredibly interested in the story. As was the Scottish National Party and the Guardian. The story has been bubbling under the surface for about seven years now.

And to make it worse for Robertson there are now new rumours about the poor man (although this site is also dodgy so caveat lector).

It does seem a bit over the top to have a go at a newspaper for a message board which no one seemed to notice for a few months. It also seems a bit unsporting that if the Herald were to defend its actions it would be relying for its defence on documents that have been put under a one hundred year secrecy rule. These documents could contain little gems such as:

A 'comparative analysis of Thomas Hamilton' by Central Scotland Police

Information about Hamilton's 'use and possession of firearms'

Details on firearms licensing policies

I wonder what that information about the 'use and possession of firearms' is? And again, why the hell is he suing?
Monday, July 28, 2003

Brits do it better

At least according to Salam Pax who reports from Basra on the way in which the occupation forces deal with potential feuds, none of this trying to bring civilisation rubbish (to Mesopotamia?). Talking of Salam Pax, he has a couple of points on the death of the ugly brothers, which he thinks was totally mishandled "they should have been humiliated in public, images of them handcuffed and being pushed around." He even seems to like Robert Fisk, although whether he will be now allowed back on to blogspot for that crime against the Blog consciousness I don't know.

Samizdata also have some first hand reportage (no, not more pictures of Bond Street) from Basra. Everyone's going. It seems that their soldier thinks that we're not doing that well in that we're helping to set up ethnic mafias. Plus ca change. Of course some anti-war types will say that this is a bad consequence of the war. They seem to forget that Iraq was a bit of a Sunni and Tikriti mafia. It's more a bad consequence of living in the Middle East. No imperial power is going to make it any worse, or any better.
Carving "4REAL" on their arms - 28th July 2003, 22.42

Even under the unpleasant decline over which this government resides: rising taxes and smothered growth, it appears that Britain still enjoys a final Indian summer of good management. Six of the ten best companies in Europe have been identified as British in one of those dull comparisons that management consultants make to justify their fees. The consultants must have been British because the Germans didn't get a look-in.

If only the government saw this as evidence for a tax-cutting deregulating agenda...instead of another corporatist alliance on a continental scale. France, Germany and the UK have realised, after signing their powers away, that their industries could be threatened by the environmental agenda that loves tax, hates industry and destroys employment. So they set up a common memorandum. Their only problem is that you can't solve problems without power.
Sunday, July 27, 2003


What the hell, here's another site on the European constitution and what we can do to stop it. Courtesy of Conservative Commentary.

And this is how they did it in Romania

This nice little article explains why the Iraqis will still be shooting at our troops even though we've liberated them, poor things. Courtesy of Jim Henley:

The Iraqis have no national pride. They're the United States' bitch.

Welcome to the Anglosphere.

Is the Beeb the main story?

The main fight on the David Kelly affair seems to be a who said what spat between the BBC and the government. But is that the story?

A lot has emerged over David Kelly in the past few days. A decent synopsis is in this Independent article:

It was public knowledge that Dr Kelly had a distinguished career as a leading UN weapons inspector in Iraq and had been nominated to lead the British contingent in the Iraq Survey Group, formed to take the UN inspectors' place. But we now know that not only was he probably the Government's most knowledgeable adviser on the history of Iraq's weapons programmes, but he also had a high security clearance, sat in on MI6 interrogations of Iraqi defectors and was a member of a high-level committee reviewing all the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. His value was such that he had been appointed a "special deputy chief scientific officer", a rarely used civil service grade that allowed him to move in senior circles without having administrative responsibilities.

We are also now aware that he briefed at least three journalists. There were other people briefing the BBC as well as Kelly.

Is it more likely that this systematic briefing was the work of a lonely whistle-blower (with high level security clearance), or of a man doing this with the full knowledge of his colleagues? To me Kelly doesn't appear to be a David Shayler.

So who were these colleagues? Well John Reid, almost two months ago, had a word for them; "rogue elements". Who were they? Well they were within the intelligene community. What were they doing? Briefing the press that the dossiers were written with an eye to political expedience rather than intelligence information. Sounds like a close match to our Kelly.

What was the motivation of these "rogues"? It may be that they are dissatisfied with the special relationship, or are fairly pro-Arab (although Kelly doesn't seem to be particularly pro-Arab). My personal belief is that it was a matter of professional pride. The intelligence services were looking stupid because the dossiers that were supposedly based on their information was tosh, and they wanted the world to know who the real authors of these dossiers were. Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell were pretty high on the list.

This is not really a battle between the BBC and the government, but a battle between some elements (how large we don't know) and the government. I suppose it will take some time before we know why they are fighting.
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Pointing the Finger - 25th July 2003, 12:04

Some of our American colleagues in the blogosphere, like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds, have viewed the current clash between the BBC and the Blair administration, as a replay of the New York Times, with the values of journalistic integrity undermined by "reporters" furthering an ideological or a political agenda. Whereas, in Britain, the evidence gathered so far, indicates that the battle is one of factions in New Labour's 'big tent'. What is so striking about the methods of spin and manipulation of the facts illustrated over the last few days is how they were considered to be useful tools by New Labour members, whether they inhabited No. 10 or, like Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke, were parachuted into the management and regulatory structure of the BBC. Both sides used these methods without any moral compunction and now find themselves speared by the consequences. One wonders if this battle indicates a division in New Labour itself, between the Blairites and the more traditionalist members of the project.

Tessa Jowell has stated that the 'independent' Hutton inquiry will consider whether the BBC has breached its regulatory procedures and editorial guidelines. If it is independent, why are ministers presuming to set its remit? Jowell also told the BBC's World at One:

"It is a statement of the obvious to say I will take very seriously the recommendations in the Hutton inquiry - particularly those recommendations that may bear, in any way, on the BBC or any other broadcaster or any other aspect of the media," Ms Jowell told BBC Radio 4's World at One.

In the early years of the Blair administration, we saw New Labour attempt to suborn independent institutions through patronage and personal networks, maintaining the guise of independence, yet influencing political outcomes through trusted appointees. This strategy was rolled out in the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the BBC and the quangocracy. The actions of the BBC represents this strategy's greatest failure. However, who would you trust least to institute any reforms of the broadcasting media? That is why I find Jowell's assertion that any 'recommendations' may be implemented across the independent and public sectors to be rather disturbing, given this government's record of vetoing recommendations disadvantageous to its interests. (When will the rules on referenda become law?)

Peter Oborne of the Spectator has examined some of the evidence surrounding Kelly's evidence and concludes that the government hung him out to dry. His major piece of evidence is an article by Patrick Wintour, the Guardian's defence correspondent, with close links to No. 10. Looking at this mess from the outside, one is given to think that we will never know the ins and outs of what was said or done by the individual players. However, people are aware of the past tactics employed by this government and assertions that Blair authorised the leaking of information are all too credible. No doubt, their defence will be that noone named Kelly, whilst wriggling on their hook. However,

First they issued enough information to make it possible for any resourceful and well-connected journalist to narrow down the list of suspects. Then press officers were given instructions that, if a journalist came up with the correct name, they were to confirm whether it was the right one or not. On 9 July the Times presented 20 names to the MoD before coming up with the answer.

Nor will we know how accurate was the information Kelly gave to the Foreign Affairs Committee until the final report from Hutton is published. The allegations of bullying and threats cannot be proved one way or the other. Whilst possible rumour, such actions were not aired or recorded and only become an unproven pat to fling at this government's reputation. More interesting is the allegation that Kelly was deprived of the support usually assured to civil servants before they are grilled by the Committee. This should be investigated by Hutton's committee.

It should also ask whether Dr Kelly was afforded the usual courtesies given to officials when grilled by MPs. They are usually briefed in advance about the content and order of questions, as well as the identity of the questioner. It may be the case that Dr Kelly, who was accompanied to the committee by MoD security men but otherwise left to his own devices, was not protected in the usual way.

Those who give evidence to Commons committees are customarily sent transcripts of their evidence within 48 hours. These transcripts are always accompanied by heavy warnings about accurate testimony and the need to correct errors.

Both the BBC and the Blair administration employed the methods of manipulation and bias to further their political goals and both were descendants of the political changes in the Left under Thatcher. Now a man has died, because of their unsurprising and avowedly collectivist view of life: that the end justifies the means, and that the reputation of one man has less value that their ideas. It is their similarities rather than their differences that appalls me.
Thursday, July 24, 2003

Gilligan's Island

Boris Johnson writes in defence of Andrew Gilligan. Many good points here, as well as the surprising fact (to those who've never met Gilligan) that Gilligan was moderately pro war - as if a loyal New Labourite could be anything but.

The first point was that the right wing press have been giving the left wing government a free ride. While this should not be surprising in the pages of the Labour supporting and sister company of Sky News, The Times, the Telegraph should know better. Alas, it hasn't really known better for about ten years but that's another story.

The main point, however is that Gilligan called it right. The dossiers were a pile of tosh, and the fact that they were tosh was not because our intelligence services were hopeless but because our government lied to us, and our government lied to us not out of habit but out of a conscious desire to have an excuse to follow on the slipstream of a superpower. (Of course Campbell is not to blame for the dossier, he followed orders as well.)
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
The Heart of Europe - 23rd July 2003, 23.54

Once the "group of 4" had convened on the 29th of April to lend a helping hand to the campaigning Belgian Prime Minister, we heard very little of their proposal. Like all things European, gone is not forgotten. Jan de Bock, Belgium's permanent ambassador to the EU, spoke about this endeavour on the 14th July. He noted that the objectives: a training centre for pilots and a strategic airlift command, had met a "benign" reception from the United Kingdom. Bock's explanation for the lack of British hostility was:

He [Blair] feels that now that the euro decision has been put off indefinitely, "the defence file might once again take over as London's central claim at the heart of Europe".

Yet, as Will Hutton notes through his Europhilia, the Blair government has cast its vote for the Americans, in order to maintain the flow of hitech transfer. Whilst correct in analysing the long-term effects of becoming a 'Pentagon satrapy', Hutton is, as always, grasps the EU as a viable and grateful alternative. Howver, his words are appropriate, even if his solutions are dreadful:

The argument is that as America's and Britain's foreign and security ambitions are identical, and that as there is little prospect of being in any significant conflict where the Americans are not fighting as well, we should have compatible military equipment and command structures. We should simply ride the technological coat-tails of the US, accept its draconian rules for technological transfer and cede 100,000 British jobs and defence capability to whichever American company is prepared to buy BAE. Doubtless, if the terms are right, members of the BAE board will make a small fortune through their share options. Blair, Hoon and Straw are signed up to the cause.

This, I think, is the gravest betrayal of our national interest. The argument turns on two false premises. British and American interests are not always and everywhere identical, as should be obvious after Iraq, where we are committed to a long-term, expensive and potentially murderous engagement for precious little gain and without UN support.

Part of the solution is here. The argument turns upon how we define our needs.

The air, naval and ground requirements are distinctive and need to be supported by an appropriately customised defence manufacturing infrastructure. To become part of the US defence complex serving very different needs is lunacy, even if it enriches BAE directors and gives a short-term fix to redressing the company's technological weakness....We may want access to American technology, but let's not sacrifice our integrity as a country to gain it.

Why the Yanks should never run an Empire

Excuse me for getting into armchair strategist mode, but didn't the Americans cock up with this mess of a rain on Uday and the other Son of Saddam?

To read the various adopted Americans on places like Samizdata and England's (sic) Sword it was a triumph. Now two of the most powerful ex-Baathists are no longer around to be interrogated and used as captive leaders to surrender at least part of their forces (think of Japan, 1945). The Yanks may be excellent at looking after their own gardens, but as rulers of foreign lands they are, to use a Yankicism, lame.

And a fourteen year old boy's killed as well, so any Arab who sees us celebrating the death of these two gangsters thinks that we're also celebrating the death of a kid. Of course that's not what we mean but it is fairly easy to foresee how some demented Muslim will see it "ah the great Satan loves killing children".

The hope that the leaderless resistance in Iraq will in fairly short order die down when the "leaders" have gone seems sadly misplaced (hopefully I'm wrong).

Portraying this bungled arrest as a great victory is a sign of desperation. Two criminal suspects, and a fourteen year old boy, were shot after a tipoff when they could have been quite damaging if caught alive. This is a victory? God help us when they have a defeat!

Have you seen this man?

On the edge?

Poor old Ali Campbell seems to be getting to the end of his tether. As an alcoholic who is still on medication for manic depression, it's really not a good idea to approach this man. If you do see him, please contact the police who will know what to do
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Between the Lines

"I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly."

Blair's statement today.

Which in effect means that David Kelly's name was leaked. So they lied on that too.

They're probably lying on Blair's role, although that doesn't matter, only Michael Gove believes him now. However for some pointers on the art of dissembling go to the full Guardian story.

Sack Bernard

One odd thing in all this Dr Kelly stuff has been the role of Bernard Jenkin, the supposed Tory spokesman on defence. If you look through the Google News Search for Bernard Jenkins and Kelly you get nothing. This is when Bernie’s opposite has been accused of helping to speed the death of an elderly scientist and the very premise for an unpopular war has been shown to be even more far-fetched than we thought. Where’s Bernard to put the Tory case?

Of course the Tories should be enjoying the show and not seen to be profiting from this tragedy, but there’s low profile and there’s non-existent. Of course Bernie’s got form for this. After the Hatfield rail crash he kept mum, even got John Prescott to thank him for not taking partisan advantage. And the government did not suffer for its transport mess – instead we saw a disastrous re-nationalisation which we will be paying for into the next generation. There goes a genuine John Major achievement because Bernie wanted to be non political. If that’s what he wanted, why didn’t he just stick to singing?

It’s rather admirable that he avoided the Portillo bandwagon in 2001 and backed IDS in the first round when no other shadow cabinet minister did, but this is looking more and more a sign of political luck rather than political judgement. Could you imagine if you had some shameless kitten drowner like Tim Collins or John Redwood shadowing defence at the moment?

Geoff Hoon’s memos would be in the planning stage.
Monday, July 21, 2003
Too wide for handshakes... - 21st July 2003, 23.05

Andrew Pfaff, of the International Herald Tribune, notes that NATO has decided not to send troops to take up peacekeeping duties in Iraq and argues that this is a signal for a breakdown of the Atlanticist alliance. Pfaff moves from this decision to blame all of the consequences of this division on the foreign policy of the Bush administration. The one-sided article views the European actions as a reaction to American unilateralism and ignores the pertinent facts that indicate many European states started pursuing a common obscurity policy in the late 90s as a counterweight to US hegemony.

The Europeans simply no longer agree with the United States. They don't agree about the terrorist threat. They don't think Osama bin Laden is a global menace. They don't take Washington's view of rogue states. They don't agree about pre-emptive war, clash of civilizations, the demonization of Islam, or Pentagon domination of U.S. foreign policy.

The important point within the article lay in the quotation from a former supporter of the United States who had, through the actions of the Bush admnistration, turned towards support of the ESDP and an 'independent' Europe, whilst criticising the actions of the US as 'unilateralist', an old and rather tiresome canard.

Such views are interpreted in the United States as "anti-Americanism." The truth, as a leading (conservative) figure from ex-Communist "New Europe" said at one of these meetings, is that the Bush administration has turned America's friends into anti-Americans.

He said that throughout his political life he had been an admirer and defender of the United States against left-wing European critics, but now he has become what he calls a "new anti-American."

He defined new anti-Americans as "former anti-anti-Americans, now forced to become anti-American themselves." He said that in his own country, the U.S. ambassador behaves in the way the Soviet Union's ambassador did before 1989. This simply is unacceptable.

For whatever reasons, and this character appears to have taken an American injunction quite personally, Pfaff's article illustrates a trend across both 'Old' and 'New' Europe. The conservatives, who originally supported both an Atlanticist foreign policy and European integration, have now jumped an ideological gap and allied themselves with the French Gaullists. The members of the EU have gradually migrated over the last decade, but are part of the conservative element in Central Europe now lining up behind the Germans? If so, the plan to base US troops in depend upon a gradually diminishing foundation of public support.

Compare and Contrast

"In the meantime, our attitude should be one of respect and restraint, no recriminations, with the Kelly family uppermost in our minds."

Tony Blair yesterday.

"I think that it would have been very much more helpful if the BBC allied to its statement yesterday had acknowledged that its original story around which all this controversy has grown was wrong. "

Peter Mandelson today.

Stinking, rotten, hearse-chasing, hypocrites.

Cack handed Query

I'd be interested to know if anyone has any old news footage of David Kelly still left on their video recorders? Which hand does he write with? Please e-mail me and let me know.

Of Little Note

Isn't it funny how they've not found a suicide note in the case of Dr Kelly? After all he's a scientist - a profession addicted to scribbling everything down - and he's committed suicide because he feels he's been unfairly traduced. Hmmmmmm.

On another strange conspiratorial twist, does anyone remember John Reid talking about "rogue elements" in the security services? Well although Kelly was not a full time member of the security services, he certainly worked for them and was certainly rogue. Was he a lone rogue, or was he working for a larger rogue faction, and was he part of the "rogue elements" that Reid was going on about?

I still think it's suicide as nothing else fits the facts well.

Any way that's not the main thing. The BBC baiting is all good fun, and someone really should ask them why they think they deserve to be a power in the land like the unions in the 1970s, but it's not the main point.

The main point is would the British public have gone into the war if they didn't believe that Iraq was somehow a threat? Or was it the freedom of the Shias or the security of Israel that persuaded the British public?

Did Blair's constant reference to "intelligence sources" help convince a sceptical British public that their troops, taxes and name should be used to get rid of the "threat" from Saddam?

Did the dossiers, no matter how laughable play an important part in this?

Was the Iraqi threat utterly empty when finally probed and were our intelligence services aware of it?

If the answers to the above (albeit loaded) questions are that we were lied into war then the answer must be who did it?

Was it the intelligence services who misled us, were they simply stupid or did they provide good information which was sexed up by someone near the Prime Minister?

The answer is becoming clearer and the Kelly suicide is now a distraction. Whether Kelly was the main source, whether the words "sexed up" came from Gilligan or were out of the mouth of a source (the inference was clear) - all this is by the by.

The main point of the argument over the last month is did the government deliberately misuse intelligence sources to falsely paint the situation to the British public?

Of course they did. Campbell Blair out.
Sunday, July 20, 2003

Hit counter

Is there any package out there that can measure hits through a graphic interface? That is with various numbers it would show different graphics (I particularly want a thermometer saying "Today interest in British foreign affairs is...Non Existent/Lukewarm/Stirring/Hot/Off the Scale").

Specifically I would like to measure hits over the previous twenty four hours (rather from the previous midnight) and have various viewing figures as triggers.

It just appears to me as there has been a sudden influx of readers in the last three days (and welcome to you all) at least by my standards with no direct link from any high volume blog nor any notable increase in either the volume or standard of the posts. This is a good indication that people are suddenly interested. Its down from the heady numbers during the main fighting during the Iraqi war - stirring rather than hot.

So any ideas on how to deliver this service?

Why don't they love us?

The War Nerd writes a good piece on the (almost) iron law of occupations:

Occupations always go bad, because armies aren’t nice things. They were never meant to be. Armies are scary. Armies are where you dump all the guys you hated in high-school PE, the ones who thought it was so funny when you were too fat to do the rope climb. Or they’re the guys who got an option from the judge, “Either you go to the pen or you join the Army.” Now you’ve got 100,000 guys like that marching down Saddam Street. Foreign thugs with guns who don’t speak a word of the local language. You really think you’d be cheering?


There aren’t any good solutions when you occupy a foreign population. There are some techniques that help, but they’re cold-blooded stuff that won’t make the home folks happpy. For example, you can play tribe against tribe, say Iraqi Shiites or Kurds vs. Sunni. But that takes years, guarantees lots of blood, and doesn’t make the “liberators” look too good on the nightly news. Or you can do what Stalin would’ve done: kill’em all. But we’re not Stalin, so we won’t do that.
Courtesy of Steve Sailer:

"If the French were our enemies, they would have encouraged us to go into Iraq."
Greg Cochran.
Saturday, July 19, 2003
Damaged Goods - 19th July 2003, 23.15

Some are calling on Blair to resign. If the most important Labour figure to sanction this is Glenda Jackson, then the indications of a sturm und drang engulfing the PM look very farfetched.

The swift declaration of a judicial inquiry under Lord Hutton was designed to shortcircuit the runaway firestorm of press speculation that could prove so damaging to the government. Blair's appetite for foreign travel may now be curbed given the travails that afflict his government.

The next few days will clarify the immediate damage to the government and indicate whether this political firebreak is serving its purpose.

Best of British?

Samizdata moans that the Guardian are "airbrushing" them out of an article on British political blogs.

Get over it. If they mentioned Natalie Solent, Iain Murray, Stephen Pollard, Peter Cuthbertson and Peter Briffa they are probably not motivated by fear of the destructive power of a website.

They may just be wondering if Samizdata is a British blog anymore as it seems to be written by (a) American citizens or (b) people who would dearly like to be American citizens.

Just as a matter of record Airstrip One was unmentioned despite the fact that it is probably the oldest active British political blog. I for one just put it down to the fact that hardly anyone reads us, but perhaps they're trying to airbrush us off the internet as well. Now where's my medication?

Questions on Kelly

I am neither a medical man, so a few questions on this suicide - and forgive my ignorance.

1) If you were going to top yourself by slashing your wrists, why would you do it in a wood outdoors and not in a warm bath? Couldn't the wound heal up (especially if the slash were only on one wrist as reported) in the open air unless their were some blood thinning method were used?

2) If he had access to coproxamol tablets (the painkiller found with his body) why didn't he just have an overdose of them?

My belief is that it must be suicide as although I certainly believe the government capable of killing inconvenient witnesses I don't credit them with gross stupidity.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Plagiarising the War Powers Act - 18th July 2003, 23.23

We know that what is debated one year becomes policy the next in the 'ever closer union' that we abhor. Now the Centre for European Studies has placed a paper in the public domain calling for the European Parliament to have the right to declare war, using a European version of the US War Powers Act.

The problems of modern political executives that Marc Houben identifies are both worrying and clarified for debate.

Why are national governments so reluctant to declare war?...The reasons not to declare war are crystal clear: Government does not want to involve Parliament in the decision-making process. If the national parliaments would be formally involved, the dynamic of the (intergovernmental) political process would change dramatically. The executive would lose its flexibility and decisiveness and the effectiveness of the coalition and the outcome of the operation might be degraded.

Libertarians can sympathise with the need to strengthen the laws and conventions that nations apply before they enter conflicts in order to ensure that violence and coercion is not wielded by states in more arbitrary ways. With the 'war on terror' we have witnessed the development of this disturbing trend.

"...the consequences of not declaring war but nevertheless engaging in war-like actions are severe. War and the use of force are exceptional. When war is declared, an exceptional situation is consciously created, not only from a legal point of view, but also from a moral and social point of view. Not declaring war leads to the political and cultural normalisation of war and the use of force. That is, 'war-like actions' (as dreadful as they are or can be) become part of what we consider normal. If war-like action is considered normal, our political, cultural, social and moral schemes of norms and values - schemes that guide us through our day-to-day activities - are enormously extended."

However, the conclusion is typical of that cast of mind which views all solutions through the European prism. To counterbalance the executives within Europe and provide greater democratic accountability, the European Parliament should have the power to stop a group of European countries from declaring or continuing a conflict. One is mindful of how closely this proposal follows on from the Iraq war.

A European War Powers Act could serve three purposes. Firstly, it would empower the European Parliament, acting on behalf of EU citizenry and all EU member states, with the right to stop a crisis management operation after 60 days that is conceived and executed by a number of EU Member States using the mechanism of 'enhanced cooperation'....Secondly, introducing armed forces into hostilities is in most European states the prerogative of the executive, declaring war is not. If a situation exists in which soldiers are introduced into hostilities and war is not declared, the European Parliament should be involved. A European War Powers Act would lay down the obligation for the executive, after having deployed soldiers to a crisis, to inform the European Parliament on a regular basis during the operation. As such it would serve as an instrument structuring the relation between the executive and the EP and consequently have an ordering effect on an inherently messy and ad hoc political process. Thirdly, a European War Powers Act could empower the European Parliament to evaluate each operation in a systematic and consistent fashion (ex post facto). This would not take away competencies from national parliaments, but would create and attribute a new one.

Although Houben concentrates on the deployment of troops at a European level, it is clear that the confusion between a European executive and national executives would allow the European Parliament to monitor and even attempt to gain control over national powers to initiate and continue conflict at a Member State level. It is a proposal now, so we can expect some concrete action by 2005.
Nary a Hint... - 18th July 2003, 22.48

Perhaps it was the nature of the forum, but Denis MacShane, (one of the) Ministers for Europe, may have hinted that the government has not ruled out holding a referendum on the European constitution.

Mr MacShane told the EUobserver that a public debate is needed before any decision to hold a referendum is made, hinting that the government may not have completely made up its mind.

"It is simply too early to call for a referendum", he said. "We should concentrate on having an open debate on the text before we consider putting it to the vote."

The unwillingness to understand or take part in an open debate was on show but what our masters giveth with one hand, they take away with another.

Mr MacShane sought to play these fears down. "It is important to remember that the Charter only binds the EU institutions, and not the Member States", he said. "It will not replace our system of common law, and cannot impinge on national competence."

Mr MacShane added that it is wrong to suggest that, by signing up to the constitution, the UK is handing over its national sovereignty. "This is part of the endless propaganda", he said.

Since our system of common law will no longer be an area of national competence, a term unrecognised in the constitutional debate over "what's left", this passage would indicate that the government is, to put it very politely, downplaying the impact of the Constitution on British national life.

Conspiracy Corner

It seems that the body is David Kelly so Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Now you want to know where all the conspiracy theories are for poor David Kelly. First stop must be urban75 although they seem to have allowed a couple of people on who are saying that this is not the smartest thing to do.

But for the real wack jobs who can beat Free Republic? Of course he may still be on the run according to them, but the concensus is that he did die. There are some real corkers, the Iraqis, the Labour Left (well they mean the Brownites but they can't tell the difference), George Galloway, the BBC (really). the French, Mossad and of course the Democrats. That Clinton, he gets around.

For those who want to form their own conspiracy theories here's the Foreign Affairs committee questioning of Kelly and here's a Telegraph timeline of the affair and a profile of the man.

Out of the Blue

Dr David Kelly, the man erroneously named as the source for Alistair Campbell "sexing up" the WMD dossier has gone missing and a body matching his description has been found in the woods.

It's probably a suicide:

Kelly's wife Jane described him as deeply upset by the hearing, family friend Tom Mangold, a television journalist, told ITV News. "She told me he had been under considerable stress, that he was very, very angry about what had happened at the committee," Mangold said.

The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Who needs a trial?

Toby Studabaker is to be extradited to Britain for abducting a twelve year old girl. As he is a foreign national, and so not protected by our generous constitutional guarantees for accused criminals I propose that the following trial conditions be imposed:

- No access to defence lawyers
- Secret trial
- All judges to be subject to superior officers
- Give him the choice, twenty years if he pleads guilty - death if he claims innocence

Of course if you disagree with my views on this then you are merely an apologist for abducting twelve year old girls.


This article in Samizdata is illustrative, well the comments are fun.

It would be interesting to point out the inherant absurdity of claiming that one is a Liberatarian because you want to use taxpayers money to liberate Iraqis from Saddam, but that left libertarians are wrong because they want to use taxpayers money to liberate sick people from disease. But then as someone who is never quite sure whether I am a Libertarian I won't enter into this apart from to note that this war will probably see many lapsed Libertarians in a few years.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Liberal Liberal Democrats?

Lack of consistency must be a lib dem strongpoint. The ability to leap from their nasty statist policies of tax raising and bureaucracy of the last election to a sensible and probably popular policy today. While according to The Sunday Times 1 in 4 probably think that we need more government the rest of us who suffer and support the burden of the state should encourage Charles Kennedy's new idea to prune back central government.

The merging of the Scottish/Welsh office etc is a welcome sign which could lead to greater independence and possibly total separation. Cutting down on other offices might make government more transparent.

Unfortunately Kennedy and his party do not have much of a reputation for being liberal. If this policy survives then although I doubt it will help the lib dems. who would believe them? It could however have the effect of bringing ideas like this topic of discussion into the open. Right wing and libertarian websites are full of explanations of how excess state control costs and injures the poor more than allowing them to deal with their own affairs. But the Tories would never be able to come up with this policy on their own. The left wing clamour and lies would drown out rational argument and they would have to back down discrediting sensible policy in the process. Adopting a policy from a left wing party is very different though. It removes a whole arsenal of statist ammunition.

Last year's war, ctd

It looks like Pakistan have got a border dispute with Afghanistan. Of course it's of no interest to us after all its not as if one side have a weak government relying on Western guarantees and the other side has nuclear weapons.

The Strong or the Weak?

Our friend Christopher Montgomery gets a nice letter in the Telegraph comparing Blair to Charles II. Now the question as to whether the Dutch invasion was actually any good for us is another issue...
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Where's Osama

And where's Saddam? And what happened to Simon Dee?

So where are our chips?

Anne Applebaum says that America ignoring British interests is all our fault (thanks to David Ross for pointing it out, and applying it to Gibraltar) since we asked for things such as a UN vote to go in.

Of course there is some truth that we weren't good at asking for anything that may have been actually useful to us, but that's hardly the point. You see the way it was sold to some of the doubters is, yes this will make us unpopular with the rest of the world but America will be so grateful that she will owe us. We can cash in our chips later. (Of course the Anglosphere cult would say that America would do this any way and that we should be fighting with America because that is what friends are for, but outside the bloggosphere they don't really count). Of course when we do try to cash in chips over British citizens under some deluded Civis Romanus Sum claptrap we're told that's not what we asked for.

The point is that we weren't some corrupt Eastern European country that wanted the cash, we did not necesarily know what we would want - and so the peace process in the Middle East or the UN votes were not our reward, they were simply a strategic decision backed by a large segment of the American administration. We couldn't foresee that the Americans would threaten our citizens with death unless they fessed up to being Osama's mates or that GW would phone up Blair to pressure him to give up Gibraltar. Does that mean that all bets were off?

The reason why America is not looking after us is not that we asked for the wrong things, its more that we are simply not taken for granted. Whatever Uncle Sam does the Brits will still be available when some international cover is needed.

This should not come as a surprise, it should act as a lesson.

Zimwatch: Mugabicle Chairs

Just a thought. Does Mugabe's new post at the African Union have anything to do with America's understanding that he will be leaving power?

Probably not, after all they haven't appointed Bob himself to anything, but the rumours that he will leave are awfully insistent and if he did get some personal post that would give him diplomatic immunity to replace any sovereign immunity that he would lose.
Monday, July 14, 2003

Roots of the Right

This column from George Monbiot is, as you would have realised as soon as you read the authors name, smug and nasty. But I will get on to that in a minute. Unfortunately he has some good points, particularly on a one sided extradition treaty we signed with the Yanks and Geoff Hoon's surrender of our strategic ability to defend ourselves (profiled by Phil Chaston in Electric Review).

Of course the basic assumption is wrong - the right are doing this for their own selfish reasons. Being a Guardian article the assumption is that the right can only be wrong for selfish motives while for the left this is impossible. In particular it is the foreign control of the right wing media. I would have thought that the right wing media would have been more interested in attracting readers, as the Conrad Black owned Spectator shows with a rather liberal set of anti-interventionist articles and the Times shows with the glorious Simon Jenkins. Profit comes before politics for these media barons, which is why they are media barons in the first place (Of course we've completely missed the second biggest selling paper in the country the British-owned Daily Mail who are also staunchly right wing).

The other thing that he accuses the right of is power worshipping. Well George as most right wingers that I know still publicly identify themselves as Conservative supporters their not very pious power worshippers.

Of course there are personal motives in this. I wil break my taboo and state that for example Iain Murray is certianly influenced by his close links with America and it would be fair to say that if he did not have those links then his attachment to the Anglosphere would be more questioning than otherwise. However the closeness of these links are very rare even in our right wing punditocracy, and in most cases these links are very clear.

It will not do for the right to simply scoff at Monbiot (although nothing wrong with scoffing - as new Times columnist Peter Briffa does). He actually has a point. The Anglosphere is simply not "patriotic" in any sensible use of the term. To non-initiates in the cult it sounds as ridiculous to say that tying ourselves to America is patriotic as it would be for Charles Kennedy to claim (as he has) that the case for the Euro is a "patriotic case".

The right is going to have to make the choice, patriotism or America. I've already made that choice.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Under Scrutiny - 13th July 2003, 20.33

Parliament has rarely had a role in declarations of war or decisions concerning their strategy and outcome. The power of the House of Commons over war stems from its ability to halt funding for any military enterprise. Since a Prime Minister could go to war without a vote, Blair's decision to allow parliamentary approval may be viewed, in the long-term, as the key event when the Old Left smelt blood. As a short-term political strategy, there were sound reasons: demonstrating clear support for the war, shoring up public support and burnishing populist credentials to show that the administration did not act in a dictatorial fashion. However, in the context of fierce scrutiny that these decisions were taken, Blair has discovered that the House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs has acquired a more public role. The media have bolstered the committee's claim to scrutinise the foreign and security policies of this government. The Blair administration has no choice in cooperation since any resistance to the Committee's vetting would vindicate its opponents. The Guardian has noted these unique events and develops their constitutional significance:

Yesterday's foreign affairs select committee report is above all an advance for parliamentary accountability over British foreign policy...As its first sentence says, the decision to commit armed forces to war is the most momentous that any leader can take. In the past, parliament never had a role in such decisions. That changed in 2003, when Britain only went to war in Iraq after a vote by MPs. Now the war is over, parliament is pressing its advantage further. The select committee report is another important first - a sceptical public probe into the heart of the most important decision that can be taken in public policy. As it makes clear at the end of its report, the committee now wants wider and stronger powers to go further. This is as it should be.

Their analysis of the report focuses upon the scepticism in which most of the government's claims are held. It is clear that the political credibility of this government, amongst the public and its own backbenchers, was squandered in a frantic attempt to justify the conflict. What long-term damage results from this is a matter of domestic politics.

Blair let parliamentary light shine upon his foreign policy. His actions provided the House of Commons with an enhanced role: as a source of legitimacy through a vote for any future conflict. Whilst Donald Anderson may savour his status as the Chairman who called Alistair Campbell to account, an expansion in the influence of his committee remains unproven until the next war, due to the peculiar political circumstances of the moment. It is ironic that one of the most centralised administrations Britain has known unwittingly handed power back to the Commons: all for short term political advantage.

How many reasons do you need?

Junior minister Michael Wills is leaving the government for the Clare-Shortish reason that he wants to spend more time with his causes, in this case "trade justice". Basically he claims that the Common Agricultural Policy discriminates against African farmers (which it does). So he wants to reform it:

So the first step must be to build a democratic mandate for ending the CAP throughout Europe and within a tight deadline. If popular opinion can be mobilised to support British ministers in driving change through the negotiating chamber, then the discussion can start about a new agricultural regime. It is time for Europe's dozing millions to wake up and scrap the CAP.

But Mikey, you can't. We're in the EU and as long as we have France and Germany united on this the unanimous will of the British Parliament can huff and puff and still the rotten edifice will remain. Of course the CAP is clearly against our national interests, but due to our membership of the EU we can't do anything about it.

And that's the real benefit of leaving the EU. At the moment we can't make decisions that are in our interest - when we leave we will be.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
Aren't bald men supposed to be evil? - 12th July 2003, 22.23

Not if they're Duncan Goodhew. Unfortunately IDS, the most ill-fated acronym that initials could supply, took a turn on the catwalk at Prague and paraded some soiled rags masquerading as a policy on Europe. On paper, the speech reads no better and no worse than one of Blair's efforts. It gave nothing away and expounded vague sentiment in the style of a sententious vicar, hand-wringing in the pulpit. Like their Nulab counterparts, Tory spindoctors shamelessly purloin slogans and statements, proving that Donny Rumsfeld has a hobby for retirement: speechwriting for lesser mortals.

And they are why the British Conservative Party – and many other peoples across this continent – are ready to campaign for a New Europe.
A New Europe of democracies.
A New Europe of enterprise.
A New Europe of nations dedicating their will and wealth to the twin objectives of global justice and global security.
Building a New Europe is the task before us.
And it is an urgent task.

IDS knows that the Constitution is agreed, apart from some clause-swapping in intergovernmental orgies amongst the continentals. His vision of a European Union of nation-states will never be achieved, and feels quite happy to paint whatever canvas is required, as everyone else will have signed up to a cosy superstate. Picking up the signals from this incoherent soup, served to the British electorate as a small hors d'oeuvre before the main event on the Constitution in 2004, is straightforward. The Tories will not sign the Euro or the Constitution, without a referendum, but IDS said nothing about withdrawing if we had already joined. Curious how the words withdrawal, exit, out were never mentioned, even though they permeated the entire piece. For if you are arguing on a point that may prove an interesting story in some virtual uchronia, your audience are left wondering "what's left"?

The witless wonders can only puff up their own future as commanders by proxy of an unsinkable aircraft carrier. If not Europe, then America. If the two didn't exist, they'd probably doff their caps to Iceland in order to salve their need to depend upon others.

It is America that IDS looks towards, on bended knee in gratitude, serving as a foreign monarch for a withered squirearchy. Here's a Tory leader who doesn't understand his own constitution and who believes Dicey describes a PMQ. His reasoning is half-right, but whilst parliamentary sovereignty depends upon popular acceptance, IDS twists the constitutional principle into a writ for direct democracy on such issues, thereby proving he's not a conservative, he's not a Tory, but he still belongs to the stupid party.

But the British people are not being given the referendum they want and deserve.
The argument that ordinary people don't understand the issues well enough to make the right decision is as pathetic as it is patronising.
The British people already know they don't need the constitution.
They don't want it.
Given the chance, I believe, they'll vote against it.
And in campaigning for a referendum we won't let them down.
It is even claimed that Parliament can decide – because Parliament is sovereign.
But Parliament has no more right to lay Britain's sovereignty at the feet of a foreign constitution than it has to ban elections.
No British government has the authority to give away that which it does not own.
Because the Westminster Parliament's authority is founded in the will of the British people.

So, IDS would not support United Empire Loyalists Day, and probably roots for the rebels rather than the redcoats. In the scheme of things, half-baked spin, that signals the Tory tiptoe away from Brussels should be welcomed, but you always suspect he might mean what he says and the party will try to work for reform from within: rather like watching a dog scratch fleas.

This was not a Eurosceptic speech. A shame!

New Links

Another pot pouri of new links:


Rightwing Analysis

Tolle Blogge

Sick of Bush

Cllr James Mills


Human Conduct

If you link to me but are not already included, please get in contact.

Burying Shaka

Gene Expression wonders whether Thabo Mbeki really does believe all this stuff he says about Aids or whether its a case of favouring the Xhosa (of whom he is one and who have a lowish Aids infection rate) against the Zulus (who are ambivalent towards the ANC and who have a very high infection rate).

And this stuff about the farms in Zimbabwe is encouraging white emigration from South Africa...

From Baghdad

As the man who missed Salman Pax I'm not really qualified to talk about Great New Blogs, but turning tables - also from Baghdad but from a soldier, could be interesting. Too much Noam Chomsky and too little grammer for my liking but this is on the spot reporting.

Worth looking at.

Are they serious?

After sniping at the unoriginality of the British war bloggers, I must say that their Yank counterparts are not unoriginal. Either that or they are doing some heavy duty drugs. Instapundit, among others (see Steve Sailer for other culprits) says that its a good thing that Americans are getting hit by terrorists. No I'm not making this up (although maybe Prof Reynolds is making up a very sophisticated joke).

It seems that these young lads, some of them with families, some of them British, are really "flypaper" and not human beings. You see before the war there was no terrorism against America within Iraq (there was no real terrorism against America from Iraqis, but I digress). Now there is. Result.

You see that instead of attacking targets outside Iraq - such as some of the sybaritic
regimes they have in Arabie - they attack allied troops and they can dealt with on the ground where the population is hostile towards us and where they know the language and terrain better than we do. Of course not attacking our troops may be an even better result but that's just isolationist dreaming.

For the first time for ages I'm actually feeling positive about this fight. If the pro-war side are using such blatantly silly arguments than we're winning. At bloody last.
Friday, July 11, 2003

Why the Bloggers won't inherit the earth

The Speccie has a nice little article on the Conservative response to the war in Iraq. It makes the mistaken assumption that IDS would be incapable of changing the party's stance on the war - like Blair changed his stance on, oh, the EU, CND, etc, etc while out of power. Of course Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition can change horses in midstream. The electorate simply don't notice - if you doubt this you should remember that Labour's recovery started after the failure of the ERM, a policy they backed to the hilt. Didn't remember their stance? That's the point.

The interesting thing about the article is that the Conservative parliamentary party was riven with doubts and dissensions of great subtelty. Compare this with the bloggosphere, where many bloggers' idea of a sensible British foreign policy is vassalage to the US. So the blogging revolution is not ready yet. British right wing bloggers on the internet are simply unable to match the intelligence of their political representatives. If any media or intellectual effort is to have an effect on the thinking of the political classes that equation needs to be reversed.

The British bloggosphere has a lot of catching up to do. My bet is that it won't.
Thursday, July 10, 2003

The Benefits of leaving the EU

This was originally going to be a reply to this comment on the risks of leaving the EU. However I thought I might as well inflict it on the rest of you.

There certainly will be some economic dislocation from leaving the EU, but there are also economic benefits:

1) Economic regulations will be made in the perceived national rather than the European interest. I also think that as a consequence there will be fewer regulations, which will be no bad thing.

2) The multibillion contribution that we send to the EU can be dispensed with.

3) Needless Government spending that is either matched or mandated by the EU will be no more.

4) We will no longer have to enforce the highest tarrifs in the industrialised world.

5) Agriculture and fisheries. I don't need to say any more.

The idea that we need Europe for the guaranteed markets is a fondly held fiction. Even with the gross distortion of our terms of trade mandated by European obligations we still trade more outside the EU than within it, and as far as inward investment goes ultra Europa leaves the EU in the dust.

And all this is before we get to the political benefits of governing ourselves.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003

The Spanglosphere

Yes, beating the Anglosphere is like beating a dead horse - but some people still believe it and it will have to be disproved time and again like communist economics.

Another example of how the American ruling class holds us in contempt is the fact that the Spanish have enlisted Bush to lobby Blair on Gibraltar:

Downing Street confirmed last night that Mr Bush and Mr Blair had recently discussed Gibraltar in a telephone conversation, but refused to provide any details.

So Bush made a call to Blair on the subject of Gibraltar at the behest of Aznar. No matter how toned down the words were the message is clear - America is on Spain's side here. If they were on our side (or even neutral) then there would be no call, simple as that.

Of course America has no burning desire to see this small Mediterranean corner of the Anglosphere swamped by the spics, but it's payback for their verbal support of America. Not military support, mind you.

And Britain's pay back? Well, you may well ask.

Quitting Time

And now an old column from Peter Hitchens pointing out that leaving the EU won't be such a bad thing. After all Norway's still rich despite "failing" to get in in 1972 and 1994:

So would it really be so bad, Mr Blair, if Britain were seriously to consider following Norway's example? If we had done as they did in 1972, would we now be a poverty-stricken pariah, or would we be like Norway?

Perhaps you could explain what we really gain by membership? We know only too well what we have lost, and we can see clearly what Norway has managed to keep.


According to the Torygraph:

Germany and France are certain to win major concessions today as final changes are made to Europe's draft constitution, but Britain's key concerns have been ignored.

And Blair still claims it's a "pretty good outcome".
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
We Object - 8th July 2003, 22.40

On the question of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, we object, we object strongly and we will continue to object, especially if they threaten the death penalty. Chris Mullins, orator of the Commons, spoke out...

We have strong reservations about the military commission. We have raised, and will continue to raise them energetically with the US.

So far, neither of the detainees has been charged. However, we have made it clear to the US that we expect the process to fulfil internationally accepted standards of a fair trial. We will follow the process carefully.

The US is aware of our fundamental opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. If there is any suggestion that the death penalty might be sought in these cases, we would raise the strongest possible objections.

We are so civilised.

Not in the Clear

The government are furiously spinning that Campbell has been cleared by the foreign affairs committee report [PDF]. Well the report itself would really be a not proven. Effectively it's saying that "we can't condemn anyone until we've asked the right people, and the right people won't answer the questions". The most pathetic pro-Government intervention comes, unsurprisingly enough, from the Tory MP Nicholas Fatty Soames:

I happened to bump into tonight the chief of the security and intelligence services. I asked him if the stories were true that the government has fudged or in any way interfered with the flow of secret intelligence.

He assured me that the stories were totally and utterly untrue.

So Nick, why can't the committee members talk to them even if it has to be in secret? (And what is it with all these ex-Portillistas so busily backing New Labour?)

One fact to remember is that the committee vote was in the end on party lines with not one Tory or Lib Dem voting for it, with the (Labour) committee chairman constantly having to cast his vote to prevent critical passages getting into the report and scathing criticism still managing to get into the report.

So instead of "Parliament clears Campbell" perhaps it should read "Labour Party clears Spokesman (just about)".
Monday, July 07, 2003
Bae's Future Prospects - 7th July 2003, 23.01

Like this government, BAE does not know which way to turn: Europe or the United States? Our defence company, as all of its rivals have vanished or entered niche roles, has entered a new alliance with Finmeccanica, the Italian state-owned defence electronics group. Such an alliance polishes Berlusconi's Atlanticist instincts and strengthens BAE's hand in Europe compared to the inefficient continental behemoth, EADS.

More of note is the recent alliance between Lockheed and BAE on missile defence systems. This is an inevitable marriage after the agreement of EADS and Boeing on the same area of technology. Boeing is always painted as the suitor for BAE but Lockheed may be the eventual winner in a transatlantic merger.

As the Telegraph points out, BAE's value stems from its relationship with the Ministry of Defence. Its managers wish to flog it off and the government would promote a merger of our last defence company with the US military industrial complex in order to maintain access to the best technology on the planet. One slight problem for the sceptics amongst us:

Boeing is planning to merge with BAE in the same way as I merged with a takeaway Chinese meal last night. BAE would be inside the belly of the giant US beast. It would be acquired, subsumed, taken over, devoured.

Intriguingly, when I talk to ministers and government officials about this potential risk, they seem unperturbed. How so? Well the imperative, they think, is to secure access for BAE to US technology, which is far and away the best in the world. And, slightly to my surprise, they seem to believe that the US government will not prohibit the transfer of such valuable and sensitive knowhow.

If we lose any pretence at an independent defence manufactory, we will have contracted out our security to the States and our domestic policy to Europe. I cannot call Blair power mad any longer since he seems hellbent on giving most of ours away to someone else.

Now we bribe them

The Afghan provinces are going their own way from Kabul (are we surprised?). So if we can't fight them or persuade them, why not bribe them?
Sunday, July 06, 2003
America's Peacekeepers - 6th July 2003, 23.03

Martin Kettle, a Grauniad contributer, muses on the implications of Geoff Hoon's strategic delight: that Britain would only fight as America's partner. Or, with an understated dry tone:

The government, Hoon is saying, sees Britain as the necessary subordinate of the United States in all practically foreseeable circumstances. It does not matter whether the US wants us in that role. It does not matter whether the US seeks such alliances. It does not matter whether other Europeans think as we do; though in the increasingly platonic European defence strategy we still hope that they will. The British interest - the interest of a small but prosperous armed power in an interdependent world dominated by the US - is to be America's permanent volunteer, and to be capable of carrying out a meaningful military role at America's side if allowed or required to do so.

For what follows is that there is no exit strategy. Hoon's remarks can only be read as saying it will never be in our interest to oppose the US. We are the US president's to command.

Kettle examines the strategic direction of the Rumsfeld doctrine with its emphasis on hi-tech, minimalist deployments and concludes that the British Army may well find a niche as peacekeepers, acting as teletroopers and mopping up after the main battles are completed.

But the big implication of Rumsfeldian theory is that we may have to do the things in the field that the Americans increasingly do not want to do. Rumsfeldism is brilliant at winning a modern war. It has less to say about winning a modern peace. This is because it remains fundamentally sceptical - in theory more than in practice - about the desirability of committing US troops in peacekeeping operations.

This article does not recognise the current deployment of military forces over the last two years. Britain, the United States, Australia and other nations have tended to use their special forces in a 'coalition of the willing' and dispense peacekeeping duties to allies who have neither the experience or the forces to shoulder a frontline capacity. Rumsfeld understands the advantages of a multilateral approach to conflict and will retain Britain as a reliable partner rather than a peacekeeping vacuum cleaner.

However, given our proximity to the Middle East, Kettle's conclusions are correct:

But the implication cannot be shirked. The wars will be of America's choosing. The risks could be disproportionately ours.
Evidence emerges that the British Army was unprepared for the war - 6th July 2003,

Sean Rayment, in the Sunday Telegraph, reported on the lack of kit that the British army was given to fight the war.

Colour Sgt S Baillie, a company quartermaster sergeant with the 1st battalion of the Light Infantry, revealed that his troops went into battle without adequate body armour, grenade launchers, rifle grenades, night-vision devices, desert boots, hats, socks and uniforms.

This issue was highlighted before the war as an example of the supply problems that the armed forces have faced, with increasing severity, for some years. It comes as no surprise that the Ministry of Defence preferred to downplay this problem as a "minor issue", given that the Hoon did not appear to address this concern. He told the Defence Select Committee on May 14th,

"When they [British troops] went into operations all of our forces were given the right boots. There was sufficient clothing and protective equipment in-theatre to deal with a force of this size."

When an article is written, providing evidence that the British Army did not have sufficient clothing or protective equipment, the Ministry of Defence is ordered to protect the political reputation of their master rather than the troops in theatre.

An MoD spokesman said: "We do not believe there is a contradiction between what the Secretary of State told the defence select committee and what CSgt Baillie said in his letter. With a logistics operation of this size there are always going to be one or two glitches. There is a lessons-learned exercise under way to make sure that we can improve future operations."

I am sure that underequipped soldiers will appreciate that they suffering from a glitch!

The real face of the Guardian

The Guardian longs for Maggie Thatcher's death and rejoices when her husband dies. By contrast the anarchists on the urban75 talk boards actually appear quite restrained.

Brer Tory

Christopher Booker speculated a month ago on a future referendum on the European Constitution. Blair would sooner or later have to hold one but it would be the "nuclear option" of whether or not people wanted to be in the EU - and also accepting the constitution and the Euro as part of the package.

The Tories had fallen into a trap of saying that they would never support withdrawal, and so would end up in supporting the referendum and it would be 1975 all over again. The way out, Mr Booker contended, would be to talk about withdrawal.

Maybe not. Withdrawal is probably the only position which is more Eurosceptic than the electorate at large, and could lose the Tories votes. More to the point it would tear the party in half, especially if Portillo is around to stir the poison. So what to do?

How about behaving responsibly. To any moderate proponent of continued membership of the EU (that is someone who is wary about going further - ie most British voters and many chief executives) this referendum would be seen as a stupid risk. To play hard and fast with Britain's place in Europe would be seen as wrong in and of itself.

So there's where the Tories come in. Make Blair look like a moody adolescent - not too hard when one considers the emotional material one is dealing with. Say of course we won't be going out if we vote no, after all there will be no legislative machinery to do this (Labour won't introduce a paving bill for withdrawal before calling the referendum). So this withdrawal is simply an empty threat. Vote No and don't be afraid that Europe will suddenly be gone in the morning. The Tories should be simply making out that the whole referendum is ridiculous - which will serve the double purpose of keeping moderate pro-Europeans at home in a huff with the government as well as persuading undecideds that it is perfectly safe to vote against this referendum. It will also keep the Tories almost united.

No Mr Blair, please don't throw us into the referendum patch.
Saturday, July 05, 2003

When the chips are down

With the Yanks planning to put two "Brits" in front of a kangaroo court it may be instructive to see where the obsessive following of every twist and turn of American policy has led Britain. Nowhere. That didn't take long, but even the most hopeful Anglospherists didn't expect anything else.

The morality of the case is fairly clear. These men enlisted in a foreign army, or something damn close - so they really shouldn't complain and neither should their families who are either remarkably liberal for Muslim families or they are simply lying about not knowing what their children are up to. More to the point they left British shores and so went beyond British protection, Her Majesty's Government don't owe these Don Pacificos a thing.

However there is something rather symbolic in all of this. When an American was picked up in Afghanistan he was taken to be tried in an American civilian court with defence lawyers, proper rules of evidence and judges who didn't have to answer to superior officers. Now I can understand drumroll courts for Saudis or Frenchmen, but do they have to do this with us? They could treat our people like they treat the Yank, either send them home to be dealt with by our system or put them in an American civilian court.

The whole point about getting into these stupid adventures in Mussalmen lands was not that it was in our narrowly defined national interest, it plainly was not, but that either (1) America was so culturally close to us (the "Anglosphere") that we should always help each other out or (2) that the world's only superpower would gratefully remember Britain in the future. Now we find our citizens treated like the rest of the world's rabble. On a practical basis I don't really mind, keeping a few potential terrorists out of these Isles is no loss, but it is symbolic.

When the chips are down America forgets us. It happened on steel tarrifs and it's still happening on the continued existence of NORAID. If the Americans won't give us special treatment on the small things then they sure as hell won't go out of their way with anything that actually matters.

This one sided special relationship needs to be ditched, but you knew I'd say that anyway.
The Western European Union - 5th July 2003, 14.25

Whilst examining the website for the Western European Union Assembly - an interparliamentary group that monitors the European Defence and Security Policy (one of those fascinating tasks you work yourself up to), I started exploring the British representatives. There are four: Tony Lloyd, Labour MP for Manchester Central is a Vice-President and leader of the UK delegation, John Wilkinson, Conservative, is Chairman of the Defence Committee, Mike Hancock is a representative of the Liberal Group in the Presidential Committee and Jim Marshall fills the same position for the Socialist Grouping. The last thing on their mind turned out to be British national interests. What follows is the Europeanising agenda they signed up to.

At their last meeting in early June, the Assembly voted for certain alarming conclusions. They voted for further naval co-operation, including Franco-British co-operation on aircraft carriers and,

To support multinational European naval cooperation (European amphibious initiative, Euromarfor etc.) in order, in the longer term, to be able to project a substantial marine infantry force into a potential conflict zone;

To give Europe's navies the financial resources required for the aircraft carriers and large amphibious ships needed for the formation of a powerful naval task force;

Since only Britain and France are the two countries that could fulfil these objectives, it is clear that European parliamentarians are quite enthusiastic in voting on policies that involve other people's armies. Moreover, given the French floating kettlemobile that is the Charles de Gaulle, is co-operation with the French on the construction and deployment of aircraft carriers desirable? Of course not. Whose aircraft carriers do they have their eye on?

Their views on enlargement contained a troubling phrase that demonstrated the long-term goal of the ESDP:

Convinced that the European Union cannot become a credible entity capable of acting autonomously in international affairs unless its members are prepared to enter into a constitutional obligation to defend it, or a contractual obligation to defend each other;

They also welcomed co-operation between NATO and the EU, but not at the expense of each other's autonomy. This was evident through their reaction to the Iraqi crisis. The Assembly called for the "artificial" division between Atlanticists and Europeanists to end, but their answer was an independent European capacity that would ensure "balance" within the transatlantic community. To ensure this, further defence integration within the European Union was necessary, including the European Armaments Agency for joint defence procurement (though not named) and to develop an independent capacity for sigint and intelligence gathering facilities in space.

Persuade the EU member states to enhance their strategic capabilities by acquiring intelligence assets (satellites, UAVs, etc.), which should make it possible to meet the requirement of an autonomous capacity to take decisions and to act upon them, as called for by the Helsinki European Council (December 1999).

Their reaction to United States national security strategy was incoherent and contradicted their allegiance to NATO. It was two-thirds condemnation and one-third wishful thinking:

Stressing its attachment to the principles of the United Nations Charter and expressing the conviction that only genuine multilateral cooperation between the United States and its allies, friends and partners can make it possible to meet the security challenges of the 21st century;

Rejecting any unilateral approach to those questions based solely on superior military strength, apart from cases of legitimate self-defence and intervention for urgent humanitarian reasons;

Condemning any threat on the part of the United States to impose political and trade sanctions on allied states that refused to support the coalition's military operations against Iraq without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council;

Concerned about the consequences for global security of applying certain points in the United States national security strategy, in particular the concept of pre-emptive warfare;

Their answer to the preservation of Euro-Atlantic co-operation was further European integration in defence. This decision was taken on the grounds that unification with one voice would force the United States to take notice of her sister continent in the West and act through the auspices of international law, as defined by the United Nations.

The real anti-American agenda and long-term views on the role of Europe in the 21st Century came to the fore in their document on aerospace co-operation within Europe. After the usual preamble about developing an autonomous capacity, two clauses display long-term goals An independent European aerospace capacity is a practical and admirable goal but why co-operate with your Russian rather than your American counterparts?:

Considering that it is essential to develop a coordinated approach to armaments exports within the ESDP based on the commercial and economic opportunities the EU can offer, as a means of counteracting US policy in this sphere;

Considering that European nations should engage in and pursue cooperation with Russia and Ukraine on such matters and facilitate and guarantee cooperation agreements between their respective industries;

This expressed a desire on the part of the European defence community to include Russia within the Galileo and GMES systems that would enhance the intelligence gathering capacity of the European Union. Here, European parliamentarians were calling for European intelligence to ally itself in the long-term with the heirs of the KGB in the authoritarian oligarchy that is Russia.

To conclude, the Western European Assembly, in which Chris Patten participated, demonstrates that the ESDP is shaped by the policy pursued by France and Germany before the Iraq war. The splits within the European Union have not been resolved because the Atlanticists do not hold sway over the majority of Parliamentarians, ministers and policy makers who shape the ESDP. They remain unwilling to compromise on their long-term goal: an independent European Union, antagonistic to the interests of the United States and allied, economically, strategically, and militarily with both Russia and the Ukraine in a 'bloc of demographic decline'. That is why the documentation contradicts itself: on teh one hand indicating that a Euro-Atlantic alliance should be preserved and renewed whilst taking steps to undermine the very ties that provide a flicker of life to NATO.

Moreover, they do this in our name:

Noting that the citizens of Europe want to build a political Europe that is both independent and credible on the world stage and that, to this end, a European security and defence policy worthy of the name needs to be established;

It is unlikely that the British military or security establishment will sign up to this in the near future unless forced to by their political masters. Perhaps the security services do understand the high stakes that are now being played.

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